12 JANUARY 1991, Page 12

One hundred years ago

THE despatches in regard to the puni- tive expedition undertaken against Witu last summer, prove the operations to have been singularly well executed. Nine Germans having been murdered at Witu, with the virtual connivance of the Sultan, under circumstances of great brutality, and the district having been recognised as within the sphere of En- glish influence, Admiral Fremantle was ordered to destroy the town, as a punishment for the treachery and cruel- ty of the natives. The landing of the field and machine guns, and of the bluejackets and marines, was by no means easy, owing to the very heavy sea running, and the distance at which the ships had to lie from the shore; and when this had been accomplished, it was necessary to march the column some distance inland, through a difficult country, and without any knowledge of the road. After some fighting, Witu was reached and found deserted. "Shortly afterwards," says the official report, "the destruction of the town com- menced; the huts were burnt, the stone houses blown up and utterly destroyed, the gates burnt down, and every effort successfully used to utterly wreck and destroy the town and defences of Witu." The notion of laying waste a whole town is unpleasant; but it is absolutely necessary to teach the black Arabs that they must keep their hands off white men. The murder of the nine defenceless Germans was cold-blooded and unprovoked to the last degree.

The Spectator, 10 January 1891